The rise of servant leaders and political outsiders in modern Indonesian politics: a study of the influence of leadership brand on candidates' brand personalities and voters' trust based on the cases of Jokowi, Ahok and Risma.

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Woods, Peter R

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Arli, Denni

Brown, Colin

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In 2014, Indonesians were celebrating the inauguration of their newly elected president. The victory of Joko Widodo, who came from the grass roots, demonstrated a triumph of democracy in Indonesia. The rise of Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, was followed by the rise of other leaders from outside of the political mainstream, such as Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, Tri Risma Harini, Nurdin Abdullah, and Yoyok Rio Sudibyo. These leaders managed to overcome the political barriers made by the oligarchs and gained voters’ trust to win major elections in Indonesia. They possess one solid reputation in common and that is a commitment to act as a servant for citizens. Furthermore, the leaders’ unique personalities and approaches have differentiated them from their rivals, even those with greater experience in politics, which suggests they have unique and strong political brands that appealed to the citizens. The objective of this research is to explain the concept of servant leadership and political outsiders in influencing candidates’ political brand image based on their personalities from the voters’ perceptions. Following this, the interplay between each construct will be analysed. To meet the research objectives, this research examines a primary research question: How do voters’ perceptions of servant leadership and political outsiders affect brand personality as the political leader’s image and subsequently influence their brand trust? This is followed by two secondary questions: Do voters see Jokowi, Ahok, and Risma as servant leaders and political outsiders? If so, how? and How much influence do servant leadership and political outsiders have on leaders’ brand personality as their brand image, and subsequently, brand trust? Using a combination of concurrent and sequential mixed methods, this research began with qualitative approaches utilising document analysis and interviews to multiple sample groups with thematic analysis. These methods were also dedicated to constructing scale development of political outsiders based on the case of Indonesian leaders. Following this, a quantitative method was employed using a survey to measure how each construct influenced brand trust with brand personality as the mediating variable. The findings revealed how the leaders were successful in their approaches and demonstrating personalities that developed the political brand of a servant leader, which arguably attracted the citizens’ trust. The leaders’ backgrounds as political outsiders provided them with an advantage that differentiated them from typical politicians in Indonesia, who were seen as ineffective in making positive changes. Finally, this study identified candidate’s desirable traits significant to voters’ trust. This research makes several contributions to the development theories of servant leadership, which is particularly significant as there is insufficient research regarding this theory in the political context. The study further contributes to political marketing theories, particularly in branding theories such as how leadership brand influences candidate’s brand personality and consequently to brand trust. It also provides insights into how the leadership brand of servant leader and political outsider may affect voters’ trust consideration and impact candidate’s brand image development based on their brand personalities during elections.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Dept Bus Strategy & Innovation

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servant leadership

political outsiders

political brand


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